Union Day Festival no fun for ethnic participants
Ethnic representatives who went to the new capital to join the Union Day festival were disillusioned by maximum security imposed by the authorities there, according to participants who recently returned to the border.
28 February 2008
By Kwarn Lake
On 5 February 2008, Triangle Region Commander Maj-Gen Min Aung Hlaing ordered Kengtung Township Peace and Development Ccouncil (TPDC) and Quarter Peace and Development Councils (QPDC) to select delegates from 9 ethnic groups in the Township.
In their invitation letters to the ethnic groups, they divided and named Shan sub-groups as 4 different ethnic groups and similar thing applied to other ethnic and their sub-groups such as Wa, Lahu and Akha. 5 representatives from each group and 5 people from different government departments were to attend and therefore, 50 representatives are to go to Napyidaw, the source reported. And they were required to wear traditional costumes on the Union Day, 12 February.
The regional commander reportedly paid Kyat 20,000 (US $ 17) per person for the transportation fee and Kyat 70,000 (US $ 61) for all the representatives' traditional costumes.
"Had they ever provided money like this if it were not for going to Naypyidaw?" he asked sarcastically. "They had always collected money from the people to do anything."
Similarly, in Taunggyi, the capital city of Shan State, the Eastern Region Commander also gave each representative Kyat 10,000 (US $ 9) for pocket money on top of the transportation and traditional costumes fees, said another source from Taunggyi whose relative is one of the representatives.
"When they reached the new capital, they were treated like prisoners," he added. "The junta placed many security guards and kept male and female representatives in separate locations. In order to hold discussions among themselves or to meet their relatives who came to visit, they had to provide their names and ID cards to the security guards first."
Moreover, on 15 February at the post-Union Day dinner party with Burma's Senior General Than Shwe, the representatives who joined the party were screened by sophisticated detectors and even hair clips, watches and rings were removed and kept at security counters, said the source.
There are 3 military regions in Shan State and altogether 150 representatives were handpicked to join the Union Day. All the representatives arrived home on the 17th of February.
The Union Day, 12 February, is held each year to mark the signing of Panglong Agreement between Aung San, then the Burmese leader and father of Aung San Suu Kyi, and non-Burman leaders in 1947 which led to Independence from the British in 1948.